We are currently experiencing the biggest transformation in healthcare ever. Technology plays a significant role as an enabler of this transformation, but will not drive it alone. Improving patient care and driving toward patient engagement are crucial goals in this next phase of the healthcare industry. To make adoption ubiquitous and implementation effective, there are several things we should focus on as we dive into 2015:
- Real-time clinical decision support will transform care: As even more patients in need of care move into the system because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the amount of data needed by healthcare professionals to improve care will increase by an order of magnitude. The impact of adding more data to a limited number of caregivers means that the top technologies to enable clinical transformation will be data aggregation, big data analytics tools, and real-time processing engines. The ability to collect and analyze clinically relevant data on a near real-time basis and visualize via mobile devices will empower clinicians to make faster, more confident care decisions.
- Wearables can take on a new life: mHealth applications have become accepted – and almost expected – in the hospital environment. The same level of secure, diagnostic-quality medical device connectivity should also make its way into the home to support remote monitoring and population management. There are some impressive technologies from the research community that will revolutionize the way we monitor patients and manage diseases beyond the four walls of the hospital. This includes disease-specific body sensors and implantable devices that can collect and transmit a wide variety of clinically relevant data on a near real-time basis to the caregivers. At the same time, while activity monitors like the FitBit and Nike Fuel have thus far been geared toward healthy (and competitive!) people – not sick patients – there is a home for them in chronic disease management. By connecting this kind of data to a real-time analytics engine and a patient’s EMR, the care coordination team is armed with a list of priority patients who are not following their prescribed activity protocol that the team can follow-up with and work to remedy.
- Patient data should be protected like financial data: When dealing with mobility, it is crucial to consider the way data is protected. Patient data is highly valuable, and should be treated as such, and protected the same way mobile access to a bank account is secured. When a person accesses a bank account on a mobile device, there are layers of encryption, including a token that dictates that every 30 seconds both the device and the bank change the password and sync again – a high-level of security beyond normal standards. Patient data should be protected with similar standards that offer layers of security at all levels: server, client, transmission and authentication. HIPAA rules for mobile technology were written in 2003, and we should consider that anything that was written before the release of the first iPhone to be obsolete.
- Hospitals and health systems will guide innovation: Whether we are caregivers, payers or vendors, we are also consumers of mHealth. Therefore, we share the responsibility to transform healthcare. The first step toward that goal is to unlock clinical data from legacy systems. Without interoperability, there is very little chance for success. This seems to be a hot topic in the industry. Many are talking about it, but unfortunately very few legacy vendors are actually advancing the cause of interoperability. This is a mission-critical task.
In my view, 2015 will be the year where providers will have the opportunity and power to lead the industry and force legacy vendors to open up and truly collaborate, instead of just talking about it.
Provider consolidation and collaboration is creating much larger healthcare organizations with a strong need to integrate in order to better manage population health by both clinical condition and market. This trend is further exposing the lack of interoperability, but at the same time is creating an ecosystem of providers that is gaining a degree of power never experienced before. These providers have the power to drive healthcare costs down, improve the quality of care, guide the federal government on introducing and enforcing standards, force vendors to comply with those standards and, eventually, transform healthcare.
That shift of power that we are seeing today will shift yet again if providers do not take advantage of their ability to drive transformation. As data consumers, the patients could take control by refusing to engage with those healthcare organizations that fail to bring transparency to their data. The ultimate goal for healthcare providers is to maximize patient population, and only those providers that drive and innovate will achieve that goal.
The healthcare industry seems to be forever changing, but with the right approach and some forward thinking, 2015 could be the year of transformation and transition – when the patient really and truly becomes the focus of care.